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The Label-Conscious Kiwi Shopper


The Label-Conscious Kiwi Shopper
- Mostly understanding food labels, but not always checking content
- - Most often check when buying a product for the first time
- Over 1 in 2 Kiwis regularly check for fat and sugar content

Auckland, August 1, 2005 – Results of a global study released today by research company ACNielsen found that almost all Kiwis have some level of understanding nutritional labels on food packaging (96 percent), just over one in 10 ‘always’ check grocery labels (12 percent), just under half do so only when buying a product for the first time (45 percent) and three in 10 when buying certain food types. (see Chart 1)

The twice-yearly global ACNielsen Online Consumer Opinion Survey, the largest of its kind, polled over 21,100 respondents in 38 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, Latin America and South Africa (See Table 1 for country breakdown). The study asked consumers around the world how much they understand food labeling, when they would check labels and what they check for as they do their grocery shopping.

On average, one fifth of consumers in Asia Pacific, Europe and North America ‘always’ check the nutritional labels on packaging, with Latin Americans the most label-minded, where a third of consumers claim to ‘always’ check labels on packaged food. The most likely occasion for checking the nutritional label, not surprisingly, for an average of four in 10 consumers worldwide, was when trying a product for the first time.

And while consumers are checking labels, they don’t necessarily understand what they’re reading. Half of the world’s consumers said they only ‘partly’ understand the nutritional labels on food, with 60% of Asia Pacific’s residents leading the world in this lack of understanding, followed by Europeans (50%) and Latin Americans (45%). Most conversant with food labelling were the North Americans, with 64 percent claiming to ‘mostly’ understand food panels.

Out of the 13 Asia Pacific countries, New Zealand was the only country making it into the world top 10 list of understanding food labels, with 61 percent of Kiwis claiming to ‘mostly’ understand information on food labels. One in ten consumers in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong however claim they didn’t understand the labels at all. (see Chart 2)

“It is critical for manufacturers to make their labelling as relevant and clear to their consumers as they can, given consumers are increasingly making purchase choices based on the information on the packaging. If they can’t understand the label, they may not risk the purchase,” said Mr Alistair Watts, managing director, ACNielsen Pacific.

Globally, the ingredients most likely to be checked for by consumers were Fat (49%), Calories (43%), Sugar (42%), Preservatives (40%), Colouring and Additives (36% each). Not surprisingly among the five regions surveyed, consumers in North America and Latin America topped the list for most regularly checking out Fat, Calorie and Sugar levels.

Within Asia Pacific, the ranking of importance differed from the West, with Preservatives (47%), Fat (45%), Colouring (43%), Additives (42%), and Calories (42%) garnering the most attention from consumers.

For New Zealanders, Fat (58%), Sugar (51%) and Calories (31%) were the ingredients checked the most, followed by Carbs (28%), Salt/sodium (28%), Additives and Preservatives (27% each), Trans fat (25%), Colouring (22%), Fibre (19%), Protein (18%), Glycemix Index (10%) and Gluten (8%).

Further, when asked whether they knew the distinct difference between Saturated and Unsaturated Fat, 68 percent of New Zealanders claimed to, compared to a global average of 56 percent. On the other hand, among the top 10 markets claiming not to know the difference, the Japanese ranked number one (73%) followed by two thirds of the French (69%), Taiwanese (63%) and Chinese (61%).

“Consumers the world over are screening out products containing ingredients they consider to be unhealthy for them, and making their own personal decisions about levels of fat, sugar, etc. In developing markets, consumers appear to be more concerned about preservatives and additives than they are about calories, while in developed markets consumer focus is on screening out products with contents that make them gain weight, and may reflect the obesity battle being faced in a number of these markets,” said Mr Watts.

And after all the hype about the Atkins and other low carb diets, consumers appear to be more interested in screening out other ingredients first, with a global average of just 28 percent claiming to check for the amount of carbohydrates on labels.

And the latest diet craze, the Low GI diet (Glycemic Index), registered for only 11 percent of consumers globally, led by South Africans (17%) and Latin Americans (22%). Only eight percent of North Americans checked for Low GI on labels.

Phil Lempert, a food trends analyst and ACNielsen consultant in the U.S., said some of the findings can be attributed to what information is currently available on product labels. “Relatively few people check the glycemic index because very few companies are including the information on the labels of products sold. But that will soon change. The glycemic index is set to become the next big thing in the food industry because it takes carbohydrates to the next level – from the amount of carbs a product contains to the impact that the carb level will have on a person’s weight and energy.”

Indeed, when asked whether they had heard about the GI, 59 percent of global consumers claimed not to have heard of it, and only 34% across Asia Pacific. However, of the top 10 markets to have heard of the GI, Australia ranked number one (82%), followed by Korea (80%) and New Zealand (76%), suggesting that the diet craze is generating publicity in some countries more than others.

“As our survey findings suggest, consumers are making their own choices based on little real understanding. Greater education on food ingredients and labelling is a must and the pressure is on food manufacturers and packaging companies to simplify the message and garner greater trust among consumers in their product claims,” said Mr Watts.

About ACNielsen
ACNielsen, a VNU business, is the world's leading marketing information provider. Offering services in more than 100 countries, the unit provides measurement and analysis of marketplace dynamics and consumer attitudes and behavior. Clients rely on ACNielsen's market research, proprietary products, analytical tools and professional service to understand competitive performance, to uncover new opportunities and to raise the profitability of their marketing and sales campaigns. To learn more, visit


Table 1: The 38 Countries Covered in the 2005 Global Consumer Confidence Study were:

North America

Latin America

Emerging Markets
South Africa


Asia Pacific
Hong Kong
New Zealand

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